How to Take the Pill

February 4, 2011

While how to take birth control pills probably seems pretty obvious-after all, you put it in your mouth and swallow, right-the fact is that many women do not take the pill as they should, ending up in unwanted or unplanned pregnancies. Your doctor may have given you instructions on how to take the pill, or maybe you were one of the few who actually read through the medical leaflet written in tiny, tiny letters which came with your prescription. Most women, however just assume they know how to take the pill, then find out when it's too late that maybe they didn't, after all.

How Do I Take Birth Control Pills?

Most commonly your birth control pill packs will come with seven placebo, or inert pills (sugar pills or reminder pills) and 21 pills containing active hormones, although some packs will come with 23, 24 or even 28 active hormone pills. The reminder pills are taken during the fourth week, including during your menstrual period. In those packages which come with 24 active pills, only four of the 28 pills will be reminders. Less common are the pill packages which have 84 active hormone pills and seven reminder pills. Usually you will begin taking your pills on a Sunday, on the first day of your menstrual period, or whichever day you are seen by your doctor.

Take one pill every day, at the same time of day. If you decide to take the pill in the morning, have them handy, right next to your toothbrush so you don't forget. Some women set their cell phone alarm to remind them to take their pill. It's best to make sure you take the pill at least half an hour following a meal, otherwise you may become nauseous. For women who are prone to nausea, it is even more important to avoid taking the pill on an empty stomach. Once you have taken every pill in the pack, it is time to immediately start a new pack. When you have started on your fourth week of the pill pack, you should get your menstrual period, and it should stop once you begin your new pack of pills.

Can I Take More Than 21 Days of Active Hormone Pills?

While most women use the 28 day pill packages which have 21 active pills, other take 42, 63 or even continuous active hormone pills because of excessive cramps, extremely severe PMS or simply for the convenience of having fewer periods. The pill package which comes with 84 active hormone pills and seven reminder pills can allow you to have only four periods per year. These extended pills work well, however irregular periods and unexpected spotting may occur, and your insurance company may not pay for the extended pills without a good medical reason.

What if I Miss a Pill?

This is probably the most-asked question regarding the pill. If you miss one or two of the active hormone pills in a row, take the pill or pills as soon as possible, then continue taking your pills on your regular daily schedule. If you've missed two pills, it is acceptable to take two pills on the same day, just take one as soon as you remember, then take the second at your regular time, or simply take both at the same time. If you've missed three or more active hormone pills in a row, take one pill as soon as possible, then get back on your regular schedule of taking one pill each day. If you missed the pills in your third week, finish the active hormone pills in your pack, throw away the inactive pills, and start a new pack. If you missed three pills, make sure you use backup birth control such as condoms or abstain from sex until you have taken seven active hormone pills in a row.

Take your birth control pill on a regular schedule; if you often skip pills or don't take them at the same time of day, you risk and unwanted pregnancy, so it's well worth the effort involved in taking the pill as directed.

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